December Gardening Activities - Region 1

Gardening Tips for December

Northwest and Northern California Gardens

Learn2Grow Region 1 Map

States in the region:

Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Northern California

Key Issues for December

  • Delight children this holiday season with the gift of gardening! Growums garden kits are designed to show kids and adults alike how awesome and easy it is to grow their own vegetables and herbs – and they encourage kids to eat healthy foods! Six fun garden themes are available (Herb, Pizza, Ratatouille, Salad, Stir-Fry and Taco), as well as three mini kits (Fruit Cup, Melon Blast and Pumpkin Patch). Visit to learn more!
  • Winterize your planting beds. Remove all frosted annual and vegetable plants from the garden, add them to the compost pile, then rototill or turn over your planting bed with a digging fork. This helps give your soil some needed aeration and drainage over winter, as well as exposes insect pests and their eggs to freezing temperatures. (If you’re lucky enough to have access to cow or horse manure, add copious amounts to the soil before you turn it.)
  • Help your cut Christmas tree last through the holidays: Keep it moist and choose a spot away from drying air ducts and any heat sources, including TVs, radiators and fireplaces. (Remember, dry plant material is a fire hazard! Keep your trees watered and fresh.)
  • Consider buying a balled-and-burlapped or container Christmas tree that you can enjoy inside your home, then make a permanent part of your landscape after the holidays. Keep the tree outside until you’re ready to bring it indoors (7-10 days inside). Plant it after the New Year – and remember to water!
  • Enliven your dull winter garden or patio: Fill outdoor planters with cut greens. (Branch cuttings of holly, pine, spruce, juniper and other greens and berries may even increase bird activity on your deck or balcony.) Just be sure that the containers and urns you use are winter-hardy – ones that won’t crack or shatter in freezing temperatures.
  • If you can still dig in the soil, finish planting your bulbs now (or wish you had come spring)! Unless the ground is already frozen, this is absolutely the last call for planting those spring-flowering beauties. Daffodils, tulips, crocuses and hyacinths need to be in place now, so they can ready themselves for their blooming spectacular. Worried about pests digging up all your hard work? You can protect bulbs from animal pests by creating a wire barrier around your plantings.
  • Give a personalized, inexpensive gift for the holidays that keeps on growing: seeds from your garden! Homemade holiday cards and ornaments containing seeds are as fun to make as they are to give – and grow!
  • Deck the halls with a traditional holiday favorite: the poinsettia. Today’s beauties come in a variety of colors, including the classic red, as well as shades of white, pink, purple and mottled/spotted. (Fun fact: The poinsettia is actually a medium-sized deciduous shrub native to western Mexico!)
  • Buy cyclamen, amaryllis (in bud) and other holiday plants early, so you’ll have weeks – not days – of enjoyment.
  • Appreciate ornamental grasses for their winter beauty. Silvery fronds add interest against a dark winter sky. Grasses also serve as a protective habitat for animals, offering them safe cover during the months ahead. Take proper care of ornamental grasses. Don’t prune them back yet – there will be time for that later, before spring breaks.
  • Consider using English holly in your landscape as a tall, elegant screen or hedgerow, or as a lovely corner accent. A plant for all seasons, the glossy, dark-green leaves of this evergreen tree are beautiful year-round – especially in fall and winter when contrasted with its clusters of cheerful red berries. Holiday bonus: The foliage and fruits are highly desired as decorative cut sprigs this time of year.
  • Try the Norfolk Island pine as a containerized Christmas tree. This tropical plant is native to Norfolk Island east of Australia. (A bright-light indoor spot is a must for this beauty!)
  • If needed, apply horticultural oil as a dormant application on fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs. This smothers any potential insects (particularly scale) that want to overwinter on desirable plants. Always read and follow all label directions and warnings carefully before you spray, and apply the product when air temperatures will be above freezing for 24 hours after the application.
  • Take some preventative winter care in the garden to avoid ice and snow loads that can damage multistemmed evergreens like upright arborvitae, yews, boxwoods and junipers. Gather all branches together with twine, so wet snows and ice can’t bend and separate them, causing them to split.
  • Cage or wrap the trunks of young trees and vines to keep rabbits from gnawing at the bark. Make sure the protection is tall enough to thwart rabbits standing on their hind legs in the snow (about 20 inches should do the trick).
  • Take care of our feathered friends. A source of fresh water and food will encourage them to your landscape. Keep feeders stocked so birds don’t have to search for food. If you have a birdbath, consider getting a birdbath heater to avoid frozen water in the colder areas of your region. If you’ve never tried feeding birds before, go the festive route: Creating a holiday bird-feeding tree is a fun way to get started!
  • Continue to water trees and shrubs – as long as the ground isn’t frozen. When it starts getting to that freezing point, drain your garden hoses and store them (coiled compactly) in the garage or basement. Take note of any that need replacement or repair. Keep at least one hose handy for watering during any periods of warmer weather this winter. If there’s a thaw, you should water – especially evergreens.
  • Help your houseplants in winter by allowing them to “rest” for a few months. Avoid fertilizing until late February.
  • Get a compost keeper for the kitchen. (Consider adding it to your holiday “wish list.”) Some produce scraps you’d otherwise throw away can be used to make great compost for your spring garden.